British SMEs reluctant to grow

Despite Chancellor George Osborne’s challenge to UK businesses to double exports to £1 trillion by 2020, research from the mid-tier accountancy firm Baker Tilly showed 96pc of SMEs are “content” with their current levels of success.

The Baker Tilly Your Business Outlook 2014 which surveyed 750 small and mid-sized enterprises also revealed an underlying risk aversion from UK companies.

Neil Sevitt, partner at Baker Tilly, said: “It is a real concern that, if SMEs do not take a long-term view and ignore opportunities for investment and expansion, economic recovery will remain hesitant and uneven. Businesses need to take more courageous and strategic decisions.”

As the pressures of recession restricted lending from high street banks to SMEs, more contemporary sources of finance, such as crowd funding, peer to peer lending or invoice finance sprung up.

However, the survey revealed that 84pc of those polled were not prepared to take on more debt to expand and only 23pc said they would consider using alternative forms of funding.

While the Government has banked on British businesses to boost the economy by unlocking their war chests, the survey also uncovered a fundamental reluctance to invest in resources.

Only 18pc of those surveyed said they planned to take on new staff within the next 12 months, one fifth planned to increase their capital expenditure, 23pc planned to increase their sales and marketing spent and just 16pc planned to up their R&D.

“There should be more emphasis on research and development and more time dedicated to exploring international opportunities, said Mr Sevitt.

The companies polled were even reticent about Government tax relief. Nearly 90pc said they had not or were not planning to use any of the main incentives being offered by the Treasury. According to Baker Tilly, SMEs are either unaware of them or worried about the time and money it would take to apply.